May Birds ’18-’19

Warblers were scarce in Central Park this spring (2019), although I hear that I missed the best day, May 16. I never came across a “wave”: I generally spotted isolated individuals and never saw more than eight species a day. If there was a highlight, it was coming across 2 Canada and 1 Mourning Warbler on a late trip to the park, May 29, and the continuing sound of Blackpolls the last week of May. The Mourning – which I’ve seen only once before, briefly, with Paul Egeland at 3610 Northome Rd – jumped up to the border fence along a path, then quickly flew off into the brush toward the lake. His gray head contrasting sharply with olive back was vivid. The first Canada I saw was a singing male, just west of Azalea Pond. Otherwise, the dominant sound, apart from the Robins, was the song of the Wood Thrush, back and forth through the woods. All month, the thrushes were prominent – Veery, Hermit and Swainson’s in addition to Wood, and I tentatively identified a Gray-Cheeked, based on its lack of eye-ring and any auburn coloring around the cheek and throat. There was one warbler that arrived en masse: the Ovenbird. At one point (5/14?) they were so underfoot it was hard not to step on them.

2018: May is, appropriately, the season for the May Apple in the Central Park Ramble, also the Virginia Bluebell. And May is the time the warblers, at least this year with its late spring, arrive species-by-species, with the males in the vanguard. On May 1 I counted four warblers, led by the easy-to-spot Black and White. The highlight of May 2 was watching three species in full song: Prairie, Black-throated Blue and Northern Waterthrush. Today the Park was alive with the song of the Northern Parula, which I pronounce by accenting the first syllable while the consensus seems to have settled on the second. Just like I say “Plover” rhymes with “hover,” while others prefer “clover.” The other new treats were close and prolonged views of the Magnolia and Black-throated Green, both quiet. You do wonder about warbler names: have I ever seen a Magnolia in such a tree? and where is the “green” on the Black-throated Green? So far, I’m up to 14 warbler species, with many obvious, and some less so, to come. Interestingly, the flood of Yellow-Rumps that usually precede the warbler wave by a week showed up just today.
In other bird news, today I saw my first Chimney Swift of the year. From my birding in the ‘60s I associate Chimney Swifts with Memorial Day and the end of spring. Great Crested Flycatchers, too. Maybe this fellow was early. Or maybe it’s climate change.
May 6 was cool and gray, and both birds and birders, despite its being Sunday, were sparse. I saw 10 warbler species, but for most it was a single example. The newcomer was the Chestnut-sided: there were a couple and they were singing. High in an oak I saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and an Indigo Bunting, but the wave, if there is to be one, is still to come.

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